Courageous Leadership for Our Community’s Future

By Nancy B. Greer
President & CEO
A week ago, I attended an online session of our Courageous Leadership Initiative 2.0 cohort. I came away with great appreciation for the depth and quality of the discussion that the participants held on issues with profound implications for Jewish life.

What I witnessed was a sure sign that the Courageous Leadership Initiative (CLI) is bearing fruit. CLI, now in its second full year following the pilot retreat, is unfolding as a beit midrash at which participants explore and debate important questions, not with a view toward developing specific action plans but for instilling a reflective mode of community leadership that roots choices in the rich and timeless heritage of Jewish history, memory, and wisdom traditions.

Leadership is essential for ensuring our collective Jewish future. As a community convener, your Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle is committed to creating a space for the blossoming of shared leadership through a Jewish lens. Our Federation value of collaboration (“a threefold cord is not easily broken,” Ecclesiastes 4:12) underlies this commitment.

Your Federation initiated the CLI journey in 2019 in partnership with the Shalom Hartman Institute, thanks to many generous and dedicated donors. It began with a learning retreat that opened the door wide for building and strengthening relationships. These relationships are the foundation  of a strong community better prepared to address the many challenges of creating and sustaining a vibrant, cohesive community. The pandemic and the multi-faceted upheaval that followed has underscored the need for CLI.

In 2021, a cohort of over 150 rabbis, lay leaders, and communal professionals held a meaningful series of gatherings, all online, that took the CLI journey of learning, ideation, and relationship building a step further.

Now, CLI 2.0 is under way with a smaller cohort of veteran and emerging leaders, many of whom began the journey in 2019. Why CLI 2.0? Because cultivating expansive Jewish leadership takes time for ideas to percolate, as educator and author on leadership Erica Brown has observed:

“Great Jewish leaders dream big, articulate aspirations, remove barriers, engage in expert problem-solving, and then do everything within their power to bring their vision to reality—no matter how long it takes.” (Sapir Journal, 2022)

CLI 2.0 includes the Courageous Leadership Incubator—16 up-and-comers in our community who are learning by doing as non-voting board members at local Jewish organizations and are receiving invaluable mentoring, coaching  and cohort learning experiences as well. The Incubator is a key outcome of Federation’s commitment to developing a pipeline of young leaders ready to step up to higher levels of responsibility.

As it unfolds over the next few months, CLI will return to in-person experiences in two ways: A trip to Israel for cohort members to expand their learning with Shalom Hartman Institute scholars in Jerusalem, and Shabbat dinners through which participants will deepen their connections and their ongoing exploration of community leadership through a Jewish lens.

None of us can know what the future holds or the choices that community leaders will be called upon to make. What I can say for certain, however, is that CLI is building a leadership culture that fosters learning, values connections, practices collaboration, and is well grounded in Jewish values. On that foundation, Jewish Puget Sound can build a bright future.